Diarrhea in dogs is very common. This condition occurs when a dog’s stool is watery, softer, bloody, or smells a lot worse than usual. Keep in mind that diarrhea is not a disease. It is an underlying symptom of gastric upset caused by something abnormal in the dog’s intestinal system. Depending on the symptoms, diarrhea may be treatable at home, treatable as a routine illness at the vet, or a life-threatening emergency.
Causes of Dog Diarrhea and Loose Stools
Lots of things cause dog diarrhea including:
- Unfamiliar foods
- Toxins or substances poisonous to dogs
- Viruses or infection
- Disease or Illness
- Non-food items
When any of the above strike the organs in the dog’s digestive system, they cause inflammation which causes the dog to be less capable of extracting the nutrients and water from the stool. This is how soft, watery dog stool is formed. Sometimes the stool is also green (due to toxicity) or red (due to bleeding).
Blood in Dog’s Stool or Dog Diarrhea
If the dog’s stool has blood, pet owners are strongly encouraged to seek veterinary care. Blood is sometimes processed by the digestive system and appears black in the stool. Keep in mind that certain medications such as Pepto Bismol causes stool to turn black for a day or two .If the blood is black, the source of the blood is probably from the upper intestines since the digestive system has had a chance to process it. If the blood is red, the source of the bleeding is lower in the digestive tract.
Blood in the stool, especially in large amounts, can be a sign of a potentially fatal condition called intestinal obstruction where the digestive tract is completely blocked, causing inflammation and bleeding. Partial obstruction, where some matter passes the blockage often results in bloody stools as well.
Treatment of Dog Diarrhea
Veterinary care is recommended in order to obtain a specific diagnosis. The vet can also provide medicines that help the dog get better. In many cases, the veterinarian will need a recent stool sample for laboratory testing in order to determine the cause of the dog’s diarrhea. It may be prudent to collect a recent sample to the vet just in case.
With minor diarrhea, dogs usually get better within 24 hours. Since dogs suffering from diarrhea often are dehydrated, make sure they have access to plenty of water. Dogs that were in good health prior to the presence of loose stools usually get better on their own. It may be helpful to feed rice to the dog since it’s an easily digested grain. Overall, a bland, low-fat diet will help the dog recover faster.
If the dog doesn’t improve within 24 hours of home care, or if there is blood present in two bowel movements (or significant amount of blood present), a visit to the vet may be warranted since it could be a much more serious condition.
Warning – This information is not intended to substitute veterinary care. Pet owners need to consult their veterinarian whenever health issues arise.
Washington State University – College of Veterinary Medicine. “Diarrhea.”